PDP, the aggressor playing victim, says commissioner

Mr Gbenga Omotoso, the Lagos State Commissioner for Information, speaks with in response to the Peoples Democratic Party’s allegations of series of attacks on opposition parties in the state. He also gives his perspective on election campaigns ahead of the fast approaching polls and other critical issues

I think everything is going fine. Nowadays, there is more awareness; more and more people are getting interested in politics and what is going on. Politics and campaigns receive more attention and focus on television and radio, as well as in the general media. More people are interested in what the parties are doing and what they are not doing. This awareness is encouraging and exciting.

In our party, the All Progressives Congress, everywhere we go for campaigning; it’s like a carnival because people are happy with the party leaders. Generally, it’s been a good experience.

I think that allegation is preposterous because it is a puerile accusation to be made in the sense that a party that is the leading party of the day, which is a party that everybody is looking up to, cannot just go and be unleashing violence on people.

We are not known as a violent party. We are not known to be violent people. All our leaders and major actors are very well known, and they are intellectuals who have nothing to do with violence at all.

On the other hand, if you look at the history of violence around the electioneering period, you will see that there is a party that is known for unleashing violence and is often quick to rush to the media to portray itself as the victim.

If you look at the video from that site, people who were recorded in it were saying certain things about the reason why they were recording it. And you could see they had a vehicle with the insignia of a party on it. Everybody saw it, and the owners of the vehicle, the PDP, has come out to say they didn’t park their vehicle there, that people hijacked their vehicle.

They are giving us puerile and infantile explanations of what has happened. I mean, the people who were injured are still there, and they can be reached to ask questions about what happened. If you look at that vehicle, it has an identity, and people can identify it. Apart from that, those that were covering their faces and acting like they were in a bush in broad daylight are very well-known people. Their pictures are all over the place, as people have seen.

So if anybody is coming out to play the victim when they are actually the aggressors, I think it’s an assault on our intelligence and offensive to our sensibilities. It is an old trick, but it doesn’t work anymore. People can now easily identify people thanks to technology, and for aggressors to portray themselves as the victim is uncivilised and crude. That is not Lagos; that is not who we are.

First, let me correct the impression that it wasn’t well received. His (Sanwo-Olu’s) absence was well received because the people who were there were being childish and infantile. They couldn’t have received it very well, but I tell you, the peace-loving and intelligent Lagosians loved what Mr Sanwo-Olu did.

Mr Sanwo-Olu does not need any debate for him to be able to convince Lagosians about what he can do. People have seen what he can do; they have seen his performance. In fact, the public’s perception of him is very high, so he just wanted to honour the debate as a matter of respect for those who organised it and who were doing it for Lagosians.

But he just looked at the whole thing and said it would not be fine for him to be on the same podium as people who, a few hours before the debate, were found to have fouled the air, disrupted the peace of Surulere, and chased innocent Lagosians with guns, firing at them in broad daylight like that, displaying such primitiveness and bestiality. So he said it would not be right to stay on the same podium as such people.

Mr Sanwo-Olu’s supporters and elders have, in fact, been warned not to go there because it is not right and would offend the sensibilities of those who were injured at Surulere, and they would not like it. So if there are one or two people saying he shouldn’t have done that, they are entitled to their own opinion, but for me, I think his decision is good and compelling enough, and as far as I am concerned, it is unshakable.

I would say that is a joke. I mean, if you are serious, is it by pasting posters that you will win an election? I have not seen anywhere in the world where posters win elections for candidates. You go to the leaders and convince the people of what you can do, not by pasting photographs all over the place.

I have just returned from Epe, and all the way from there to Alausa here, I have seen many posters of the ruling party being torn all over the place, but we are not crying like a baby who had his lollipop taken away because our candidate’s posters were torn. And then you will see somebody who doesn’t even belong to any political party who sees a poster and decides to pull it down. But to allege that some people are being paid to pull down posters is childish.

People have seen and heard what the APC can do, so we do not need to rely on posters. The other parties should find out who is removing their posters. People are removing our posters, but we know that elections are not won by posters.

Elections are the business of the Independent National Electoral Commission, and INEC is working with security agencies to ensure that all is well before, during, and after the elections. But for us, as the state government, we are encouraging our people not to do anything that is unlawful, to be peaceful, and to remain orderly. We are the leading party in Lagos State, and it’s fashionable for people to accuse us of so many things because they have no answer to what we are doing, so talking about security, we will provide it.

It is a normal routine for Mr. Governor to regularly meet with the Security Council, which comprises the Department of State Security, the Air Force, the Army, and others such as the Civil Defense, to discuss security issues in the state and propose solutions, and I think this coming election will not be exempt. We are going to discuss how to keep the peace in the state. So, whether there is an election or not, there will be no security breach in Lagos State.

Elections are a means to an end, and that end is not just obtaining power; it is using that power to better the lot, create new functional spaces for the people, and ensure that Lagosians get affordable and comfortable transportation, that when residents go to hospitals, they are well treated, that young people can do their thing in entertainment and technology without any hindrance, and that people can come to Lagos and fulfil their dreams. That is what elections are all about.

The APC has been able to fulfil its promises and make the right policies, and that is why people join. That is why they voted, and that is why they will vote for the party in the coming election. We have seen what the people have been able to do, even at the national level and even in the states they are ruling. So they have come to Lagos to talk about violence, disunity, and all manner of jejune things. And so you can see that they are not even ready for governance; what they want to do differently, they are not saying. And Lagosians are very discerning; they are very intelligent and knowledgeable people. They know the people who can help them, and they know that it’s the APC, and they see that they can do all they are promising to do and make life comfortable for them.

You can see that we keep on campaigning every day simultaneously in various parts of Lagos, so we are not taking this as a joke. When you have a party that has been in power for a long time and people are still in love with them, it is because they have been working. We see this in Korea, where the ruling party has been there for so long, and the same goes for parties in so many parts of the world.

Sure, I am confident because all he has done will speak for him. Lagosians have seen that he has fulfilled all the promises he made. He has constructed more ferries, reconstructed 970 roads, made the Blue Line rail a reality, and the Red Line is on its way; he has completed 19 housing projects in Badagry, Igbogbo, Igando, Lagos Island, and others. We have built four mother-and-child hospitals, so I do not see why Lagosians will leave their destinies in the hands of novices. That is why they are excited everywhere he goes, so it is as sure as day and night that Mr Sanwo-Olu will be re-elected.

By the time Mr Sanwo-Olu mounted the saddle, West African School Certificate Examination pass rate was about 36%; today it’s about 80%. We have trained 18,000 teachers under Eko Excel. More than 1,047 school projects have been delivered. We have two more varsities. None went on strike.

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